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Archive for the tag “Traditional Indian Food”

Review: Dawat – E – Awadhi at Edesia

As I reach Crowne Plaza Today in Okhla, my stomach growls in anticipation. I love Awadhi food and with their all-day dining Edesia promoting a month-long festival called Dawat-E-Awadhi, I was about to indulge in an evening of rich and glorious slow-cooked delicacies. My mouth was watering.

Making my way up the elevator into the first floor, Edesia beckoned on the left. The 24-hour restaurant serves patrons various cuisines but their month-long Awadhi food festival is the centre of attention. Big handis (deep and wide-mouthed vessels) line the buffet counter. For Rs 1900 (plus taxes) a person can indulge in a fantastic Awadhi dinner. Children can enjoy the feast for Rs 1000 (plus taxes).

Non veg appetizers

Non veg appetizers

Two appetizer platters arrive on the table. The non vegetarian options have melt-in-your-mouth Galouti, delicious and tender deep fried chicken, miniature Shammi kebabs and Kathi rolls. The vegetarian one has stuffed Paneer Tikka which is rich and creamy, and meatless versions of the others. I would definitely recommend the deep fried chicken, Galouti and Paneer Tikka. They were my favourites.

Check out their tawa section because the options change everyday. While I tasted Tandoori Pomfret which was the star that day, they do serve raan and other such specialties. I preferred the tawa chicken more than the fish but then again, I’m not partial to pomfret.

Tawa counter

Tawa counter

Tawa chicken and tandoori pomfret

Tawa chicken and tandoori pomfret

Now came the time for indulgence. To be honest, I don’t do buffets because like most, I tend to overeat. But with experience and practice I’ve found the right path – take tiny tasting portions! The Awadhi Mix Dal was so tasty. Different lentils and ghee make for a perfect combination on a winter night. The vegetarian fare includes Paneer Shahi Pasanda, Subz Makhanwala and Palak Mushroom Malai. The paneer is soft, the mixed vegetables have the right amount of spice with an after taste of butter while the mushroom and spinach combination hits all the right spots. Then comes the Awadhi Dum Aloo. Small potatoes in a rich gravy is best eaten with buttered breads.

Mixed dal

Mixed dal

Dum Aloo

Dum Aloo

For hardcore non vegetarians, I would definitely recommend the Shahjehani Karele ki Nihari. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined liking meat with karela (bitter gourd). The meal just melted in the mouth while the bitterness of the karela was enough yet not overpowering. The quality of the meat was superb and it was interesting to chat with executive chef Sudershan Bhandari on the unique combination! The Noorjahani Murgh was extremely rich and creamy while the Zaffrani Fish Curry in a red gravy was spicy enough to give a balance.

Nihari with Karela

Nihari with Karela

Creamy luscious chicken

Creamy luscious chicken

Zaffrani fish

Zaffrani fish

The rice section has three handis – steamed, pulao for the vegetarians and of course the famed Mutton Biryani for meat lovers.

Mutton biryani

Mutton biryani

Every rich meal deserves a richer ending. While the dessert section is inviting, the deep fried sweet Jalebis are perfect to pop into the mouth. Made in front of your eyes, you consume the intricate handiwork of the chef while the sweet syrup leaves its mark on the white plate. I could barely move despite those tiny tiny portions!

Tiny hot piping jalebis

Tiny hot piping jalebis

The Dawat-E-Awadhi is on till November 30, 2016. Go taste the wonders of Awadhi cuisine at Edesia. You won’t go home hungry, I promise.

Where: Edesia, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi in Okhla Phase 1

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Guest Post: A Tale of Two Biryanis

The magnificent Biryani

The magnificent Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani (kachchi)

Only a few weeks ago, I undertook the seemingly herculean task of making a Bakr Eid biryani. Up until then I had just been an avid fan and a diligent consumer of the preparation. Have biryani, will eat. I don’t discriminate when it comes to the nawabi delicacy. Still, gun to my head, I would side with the Hyderabadi and the Murshidabadi variety. On this particular occasion, I decided to bet on the former.
I chose the Kacchi biryani recipe, consulted friends who were in the restaurant business on the correct way, went through a dozen web videos and recipe charts, memorized it and recapitulated it in my head again and again and then some. In stark contrast to my paranoid planner mold, my partner is more the take as it comes kind. However, I literally force fed the recipe to him and even revised it with him, night before Eid. He did his best to keep a straight face and I managed to not lose my cool.
As with everything too well-planned and rehearsed this biryani was doomed from the very start. The supposed aged long-grain rice, crumbled to the slightest duress (much like kheer rice) after its 30 minutes in waterbath. Then the mutton did not tenderize, in spite of the measured portions of unripe papaya. And the best of the lot, the sealed dum mold cracked open midway. Total sabotage. Long story short, I was staring at a resounding failure on a day when six expectant stomachs were counting on me rather hungrily. I can’t even begin to start counting the lessons learnt. But those are for me till I risk the next attempt.
I was especially heartbroken because the homesick me wanted to recreate a childhood memory. One of my fondest. That of a perfect, homecooked pot of biryani. As meals go, for me, biryani constitutes the start and end of perfection. Biryani meant summer holidays. Biryani meant festive. Biryani meant family. Biryani meant Sundays.
Growing up we were a wildly happy bunch. And Sundays for no rhyme or reason made us happier. And when we got too happy we cooked biryani. So my first memories of a Sunday cook were filled with aromas of onions slowly caramalising to a crispy sweetness, rice boiling in whole spices, meat stewing to juicy tenderness and fat potatoes being prodded and poked, baked and crackled with the intimacy reserved for old friends. It was like a montage right out of a lovely French film. Such beauty. Such visual generosity. Such homely warmth. We were smiling from our stomachs. All guts and glory. What went behind the scenes was another story.

Chicken Reshmi Kebab

Chicken Reshmi Kebab

I took the longest time to fall in love with my plate of food. I don’t really know what it was about my childhood that deemed mealtimes as merely a four-time necessity to be gotten out of the way as quickly as possible. Not surprisingly those four times were the most dragging part of my day that required stories, threats and coaxing on my late mother’s part. Quite a task considering taste buds and appetite were never my strong suit as a kid. Gritty woman, she did get every mouthful to its designated destination, sometimes prying my jaws open with a spoon, if and when needed. At least I remember it that way. I salute her a thousand times every day as I now run after my finicky toddler at mealtimes.
But the summers were different. Summers at Grandma’s. The only time when food was something more than just a daunting routine. The only time when food turned into something more festive. Not suggesting a change of heart towards meals though. (I still hated those rude, unwarranted intrustions into my playtime and daydreaming). It was the hoopla around food. The sights, sounds and aromas.
My mother was the eldest of five sisters; all married with two kids apiece. That made my grandma’s ancient two storied house a veritable epicenter of boisterousness. Ten cousins in all shapes and sizes seeing each other once a year generated enough revelry that could literally bring those wooden beams down. A little insight into what food represented in my family. From where I come, a man’s character and likeability was plainly shown in his palate and his plate. If you nursed a healthy appetite you were pretty much golden. And that required  at least three additional servings/helpings at the table. Yes three was just about ideal. Anything less than that was considered an insult to the food and hospitality. (So if you happened to find yourself saying, ‘No thanks’ after the first helping, consider yourself judged forever). I have actually seen some of my uncles with superhuman capacity for food and abyss for stomachs who wouldn’t shy away from five or more helpings. I kid you not. But of course, each of those addendums (or the very suggestion of it) were to be politely declined at first. Till the host piled the ladle-full on the plate, that is. It was one of those joys you couldn’t deny the host. This joy of love demostrated in terms of vertiable forcefeeding. You could literally see the eater’s hand defending the front of his plate in a mock protest with due shyness but abandoning it at the behest of the host’s greater will.
Now considering that my Grandma was fond of all her sons-in-law, one can imagine the quantity of food prepared and the chaos and clamour surrounding it. She took an inhuman amount of pain and pride in her food. Not joy so much. Never actually.  The kitchen was her cross and her crown. I guess when you have been doing something for five decades it becomes second nature and the spark of it as an accomplishment fades. Or maybe she lived in times that saw culinary brilliance as a prerequisite rather than a cause for applause. Every plate of food she put up had a beautiful narrative to it. But it went largely untold. I can’t even imagine her telling anyone about making a brilliant pot of stew or taking a picture of it. It would just about embarrass her perfectly. She lived years before the validation or gloating of social media invaded our kitchen counters and table tops and poked it’s nose right into our food plates with the ‘Like’ buttons.

Mutton Shami Kebabs

Mutton Shami Kebabs

To tell you the truth I have really never seen my grandmother anywhere outside her kitchen except when she slept next to me at night. Her frown was chiseled on her forehead and with her horn rimmed glasses she was the matronly masthead, the epitome of domestic dictatorship presiding over all things dead or alive entering the four walls of her kitchen. Trespasser were prosecuted. Her penchant for perfection was characteristic of her generation. She didn’t budge an inch from her recipes (all handed down through generations). So while the summer holidays were fun for us kids, Grandma with ten hungry children and five set of parents had her task cut out.
Work, always, started a day before. Everything was shopped early morning from the local bazaar. The trusted family butcher (you just needed to tell him what you were cooking and the rest was his job), the spice seller, the vegetable woman – all those people who were part of my childhood and unknowingly made so many of my fondest memories- would instinctively know what to suggest when told about Grandma’s feast.

Soya Chop, for the vegetarians

Soya Chop, for the vegetarians

And so would begin the grand undertaking. Under the watchful eyes of Grandma. With my mother and aunts played minions. Since Sunday biryani could never mean just biryani, there was a separate meat dish or two, a few vegetable preparations, sweets and salads on the menu. And everything was made right from the scratch. There was peeling, chopping, cleaning, grating, mixing, grinding and dozen other processes undertaken, while abundant gossip and tea broke the austerity. Rows of sun-kissed spices, saffron steeping in a now golden milk, sheets of wet muslin and a beautiful langour covering everyone. Kids were left alone with a simple brief. ‘Go play. Don’t disturb.’ (I was 13 when I was first allowed to set foot in the hallowed space only because I was making my first dish ever- green banana koftas in gravy) Now, while on regular days this would be a God send, these happy Sundays made us crave for the grown-up attention. Resultantly, one or two of us would loiter around stealing a peek, taking in a whiff and hearing a bit of gossip before we were chased out of the circle with an earful.
Once the prep was over (and we are still around 9 in the morning), the shiny brass and copper cauldrons and pots (all big enough to fit two of us five year olds inside) would come out. It was an alfresco event, our biryani. The fire was lit on the terrace and each of the ingredients would be carried up. No longer able to hold our curiosity, we would run amok, knowingly risking being swatted along with the flies.

Chicken in creamy gravy

Chicken in creamy gravy

The cooking part was tricky. Of course, there was the rice to be prepared, then the meat to be prepared, then the layering and the final Dum. But ‘tricky’ lay in handing over the ladle to one of her sons-in-law each of whom claimed to know more than the next. To quash the cacophony Grandma ended up squatting under the canopy monitoring and bringing in a much needed restrain as everybody got a chance to stir the pot. There was always a fight about how much of water to be added. But I guess they reached a consensus when Grandma punctuated the flying arguments with one of her coughs. As we neared lunchtime, the aromas wafted through the whole house and garden and I bet the neighbourhood. It wasn’t unusal for one or two neighbours to drop in claiming they ‘happened’ to pass by.
Rows of food in shiny brass and copper utensils, embroidered sheets running from length to length of the room. After a day of regimented exercise, this meal could stretch till evenings at times. Slow, easy, filled with conversation and anecdotes, laughter and such copious amounts of bonhomie. Sitting there listening to it all, food was the least of my thoughts. In fact, it would be years before I started to revel in the succulent, melting pieces of meat or draw happiness in the alchemy of ghee or rejoice the versatility of potatoes in the magic rice. Till then all I cared about was the happiness at being a part of it all. It was my carnival.
I was relatively cheered up when friends dropped in with Eid biryani the next day. A little more when my Maasi made the same biryani and the usual accompaniments I set out to make and promised me a cauldron full during her next visit.

Maria Bilkis is a Mumbai based writer, visual artist and committed foodie. Follow her journey as the amateur food writer and new mommy learns the ropes in her tiny kitchen on Instagram and Facebook

Review: Food Festival at Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav, IGNCA

Anyone hungry?

Anyone hungry? Just look at the variety!

As you enter the gates of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, the colourful posters immediately catch your eye. People mill about as traditional music can be heard over the PA system. There are men dressed in traditional outfits beating drums which everyone gathers to hear while men in stilts entertain the young ones. The smell of delicious food wafts through to tickle the nose. Above all, it’s a festive atmosphere and a perfect way to spend a winter afternoon in Delhi.

Indian thalis are an absolute delight!

Indian thalis are an absolute delight!

The second edition of the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahostav is being held at IGNCA near India Gate. Organized by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, it’s a 10-day extravaganza to celebrate culture, food, heritage and the diversity of the country. “Can anyone walk in?” asked my auto driver as I was paying him. I nodded in affirmation.

Dumplings from the North East

Dumplings from the North East

What drew me to the celebrations was obviously the food! With food stalls from all across the country, the festival stayed true to showcasing diversity. From Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, Nagaland to Rajasthan there was plenty on offer for every taste bud at reasonable prices.

Melt-in-your-mouth Galauti

Melt-in-your-mouth Galauti

I began at the Lucknow food stall where melt-in-your-mouth Galauti Kebabs were on offer. One could also taste biryani, parathas and other kebabs from the Awadhi kitchens. From Lucknow, I moved east towards the Bihar stall to gorge on Litti Chokha. It’s caught up in Delhi with many Bihar-themed restaurants springing up but the wheat and sattu (gram flour) delicacy is best eaten on paper plates from roadside vendors.

Litti Choka from Bihar, a delicacy from the state

Litti Chokha from Bihar, a delicacy from the state

The stalls from Assam caught all eyes with skewers of meat and seafood on display. The roast pork and chicken tossed with onions, cilantro, lime juice and spices was absolutely delicious. “We’ve come from Dibrugarh,” said the smiling lady behind the counter as she chopped up the pieces of meat.

Meat and more meat!

Meat and more meat!

Ready to be devoured!

Ready to be devoured!

From the east, it was time to move towards the west. I’m an avid fan of street food and the kind one gets in Maharashtra has me drooling every time I see them on a menu. I just had to taste the Sabudana khichdi simply because I hadn’t had it in two years! The first bite did justice to the long wait. The crushed peanuts, lime juice, spices complimented the sago (sabudana) perfectly, each bite leaving me wanting more.

Dhabeli from the streets of Bombay

Dhabeli from the streets of Bombay

One of my favourite kind of breakfasts!

One of my favourite kind of breakfasts – Sabudana Khichdi

The Hyderabad stall next door was racking up fast business with people ordering plates and plates of biryani and kebabs. With a tummy ready to burst I couldn’t take another bite but my kind neighbours looked at my forlorn face and asked, “Do you want a picture of this?” I nodded and quickly photographed my favourite kind of biryani before they could rescind the offer!
It had been a delicious afternoon, my favourite kind. I love food and when I get a chance to taste diverse cuisines from my own country, it leaves a big smile on my face. India is so vast and beautiful, each region with its own charm that it will take one a full lifetime to taste everything our country offers. But until that happens, head to IGNCA to get a taste!

Oh Biryani my love!

Oh Biryani my love!

Review: 38 Barracks – A Twist on Traditional Navratra Celebrations

The interiors of 38 Barracks

The interiors of 38 Barracks

I had heard a lot about 38 Barracks but I visited the restaurant, situated in Connaught Place, thanks to a bloggers meet. Like most places, this eatery too was catering to the Navratra celebrations but unlike most restaurants which prefer to serve a set thali, 38 Barracks put a twist on it. “We are serving a four-course menu. One can either order each course separately, or the whole meal together,” says Ankur Agarwal, out host for the afternoon.

Another view of the interiors

Another view of the interiors

It’s a great concept because one often doesn’t like to devour a whole thali. It can be the case of wanting to pick and choose what to eat instead of everything the set thali offers. The four-course meal is priced at Rs 799 only and curated by Michelin-recommended chef Gautam Chaudhry.

The Special Navratra menu

The Special Navratra menu

The food is not the usual fare, trust me. The humble sabudana (Tapioca Sago) which is widely used during the festival, is paired with raisins and the sago risotto was mouth-watering! Even the dips are unusual with coconut chutney taking centre stage with most starters.
A look at what we devoured:

Hello Pina colada!

Hello Pina Colada!

The deep fried Kurkuri Kamal Kakdi

The deep fried Kurkuri Kamal Kakdi with Sabudana papad

Sabudana and Prunes ki Tikki

Sabudana and Prunes ki Tikki

Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips

Singhade aur Aloo ke Tikki

Singhade aur Aloo ke Tikki

Paneer Parcels on Sago Risotto

Paneer Parcels on Sago Risotto

Chironjee ki Daal

Chironjee ki Daal

Harissa Upma with Paneer Steaks (Not in the menu but just as delicious!)

Harissa Upma with Paneer Steaks (Not in the menu but just as delicious!)

Makhana kheer with fruits

Makhana Kheer with fruits

What really works is the ambiance. The old and retired colonel’s house-themed restaurant with nostalgic bric-a-brac on walls and fantastic live music for the visitors should be on the list of must-visit places in Delhi.

Ambiance: 5/5
Food and beverage: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Connaught Place, New Delhi
Follow 38 Barracks on Facebook and Instagram

Review: Sattvik – Celebrating Navratra with a Thali

Thirst quenchers

Thirst quenchers

As I walked into the vegetarian fine dining establishment at Select CITIWALK in Saket, I could only wait in anticipation as to what will come my way. I love vegetarian food but I don’t really end up cooking a lot of it or going to eateries which specialize in the theme. It’s only after I shifted to Delhi that I realized how big Navratra is in this part of India. The different foods which are served during this time are cooked sans garlic and onion. While many may balk at such a thought, I think it’s a refreshing challenge. It showcases intuitiveness, creativity and the will to experiment.

Niravan... in a pineapple!

Niravana… in a pineapple!

Sattvik has been around for nine years and is widely regarded as one of the best vegetation eateries in Delhi. I soon understood why. The décor and ambiance is soothing, the staff is extremely nice and goes out of their way to make you comfortable and the quality of food is unmatched. Cooked to perfection, everything I tasted would surely have me going back again.

There are thirst quenchers aplenty but as the restaurant labels them Rasa (divine nectars), the first sips of ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Disha’ were pure bliss on a hot summer day. Nirvana has pineapple, blueberry and orange blended and served in a scooped out pineapple while Disha is a mixture of banana, melon and pineapple juice presented inside a melon.

The best Dahi Kebabs I've had

The best Dahi Kebabs I’ve had

Beetroot Seekh Kebabs, very innovative and healthy

Beetroot Seekh Kebabs, very innovative and healthy

Though I had come for the special Navratra thali, I was served two appetizers – Mehroon Beet ki Sikki Seekh and Dahi Kebab. Let me stop right there. The Dahi Kebabs were the best I’ve ever had. Made with pure cow milk and cooked to perfection, I wasn’t at all surprised being informed they were a bestseller. The beet seekhs were extremely innovative and a healthier option which is usually ordered by an elder crowd.

The Navratra Thali

The Navratra Thali

As the Navratri celebrations last for nine nights and 10 days, I would definitely suggest heading to Sattvik to devour their Navratra thali. The thali is huge with more than enough to make sure you don’t suffer from hunger pangs. Priced at R595 (+ taxes), the thali has Chach (buttermilk), Paneer Malai Tikka and Tandoori Shakarkandi (sweet potato) as starters. Then are the accompaniments such as Saboodana ke papad, fresh fruit salad and Kheera aur Anar ka raita (cucumber and pomegranate raita). The main course has Paneer Makhani, Malai Kofta and Pudina wala Aloo served with steamed Samak ke Pulao and Kutta aur Singara ki Puri. The deserts offered are Samak ki Kesharia Phirnee and Gud Makhana.

Another view of the Thali

Another view of the Thali

The special Navratra menu

The special Navratra menu

Exteriors of the restaurant

Exteriors of the restaurant

As I tasted one bowl after the other, a smile spread across my face. Everything was absolutely delicious. The kofta was melt-in-your-mouth soft, the potato had the correct spices while the raita was thick. None of the dishes were overtly spicy or salty. All had a mellow flavour and the perfect seasoning. Upon inquiring, I learnt the kitchen will make a dish less or more spicy depending on the customer’s specification. They will also make a dish without onion and garlic if requested on a normal day. The personal favourite was the phirnee. I don’t have a sweet tooth but if I had the space I would have gulped down two more bowls!

Gur

Gud Makhana, sweet and deelish!

If you’re celebrating Navratri and want to eat out, head to Sattvik situated on the top floor of Select CITIWALK in Saket. You won’t be disappointed!

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and Beverage: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: Select Citiwalk, Saket, New Delhi
Check out the restaurant website and visit Select CITIWALK

 

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